Pilgrimage in a Secular Age: Religious and Consumer Landscapes of Late-Modernity
De Andrade Chemin Filho, Jose Eduardo
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
In Europe and beyond, pilgrimage centres attract millions of visitors each year. This popularity has provoked a burgeoning academic interest in pilgrimage, and this thesis builds on this expanding literature. It emerges out of a dialogue between old and new forms of movement – a conversation that demands further research on the relationship between religious traditions and late–modern consumer culture, a dialogue made explicit through the study of pilgrimage. Although this thesis pays attention to one case study in particular, namely the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, it draws on multi–disciplinary research in order to set a broader context. It reveals four motivational themes, derived from interviews with pilgrims on the road to Compostela. These I explore in depth through qualitative analysis, while at the same time taking note of parallel quantitative work concerned with the Camino de Santiago as well as other pilgrimage sites in Europe. Ranging from the search for spirituality to recreation, motivations are found to be the result of a conflation of meanings; they are ambiguous narratives, which very often include spiritual as well as secular aspirations. My findings suggest a de–differentiation of poles of meaning such as sacred and profane, movement and place, religion and secularity, community and individual. In short, this is a methodologically diverse study which argues that, contrary to perception, traditional forms of religious rituals are not necessarily incompatible with late–modern consumer culture. Through consumer culture religious traditions are being revitalized. The renewed popularity of pilgrimage today demonstrates how some religious landscapes and spaces have remained important through political and religious movements, while others have been regenerated by literature, new media, specialist tourist markets, advertising and private enterprise. Finally, this study reveals a noticeable democratization of traditional rites, and the landscapes in which they take place. A very wide variety of groups and individuals visit them.
This is the story of a tradition. One adorned by landscapes, sculpted by men and nature, and lived by people – real and imagined. This tradition links today with yesterday, the modern and the ancient, heaven and earth. In sum, this is the story of a pilgrimage route and its heritage. Such place is not just a point on a map however. It is a symbol, a code for culture more broadly, inseparable from religion, old or new. Yet still, it is dependent on and enhanced by the secular rhythms of our modern world. Its roots go deep and reach back to the beginnings of Europe. In Europe and beyond places of heritage, often pilgrimage centres, attract millions of visitors each year. Although in the last three decades some attention has been paid to this significant movement, the study of pilgrimage remains on the fringes of mainstream social theory. In order to redress this issue this work explores the popularity of pilgrimage and heritage sites in Europe today by looking at one specific pilgrimage route as a case study: the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. Through a range of methodologies and a diversity of examples, the author shows the growing importance of what he calls the ‘touristification’ of religious sites and the ‘sacralisation’ of secular spaces.
PhD in Sociology